Some things never go out of style.
Yes, positions and the way we understand positions change from time to time, but football still requires, still expects, that most basic of arts: scoring goals.
The following slides showcase a handful of the form strikers in world football at the moment. And sorry, no Messi here. No “false 9s,” no wingers and no inside forwards are included.
The criteria: playing in the middle as the fulcrum of the attack, and scoring a bagful of goals. We’re looking for Ruud van Nistelrooys, not Maradonas.
He has cooled off ever so slightly (ever, ever so slightly) in recent weeks, but it’s still hard to think of a striker more valuable to his team than Robin van Persie.
Despite switching Arsenal for Manchester United in the summer, the elegant Dutchman has kept himself among the goals and is on pace to lead the Premier League in scoring for a second season in succession—something only Alan Shearer and Thierry Henry have so far accomplished in the Premier League era.
In 32 matches for club and country in 2012-13, the 29-year-old has bagged 27 goals, and his 22 tallies in all competitions for Manchester United already represents the second-best haul of his career.
And it’s only the first week of February.
La Liga’s Pichichi award is unlikely to go anywhere else than Barcelona (Messi) or Real Madrid (Ronaldo) anytime soon, but if it were to land elsewhere it would probably be Atletico Madrid, for whom Radamel Falcao has been scoring at a blistering pace this season.
In 19 Primera Division matches Falcao, 26, has scored 18 times and is on goal-a-game pace in all competitions.
The combination of his age and ability makes him one of the most sought-after strikers in world football, and it’s likely Atletico, who are experiencing some financial turmoil, will cash in on him in the summer.
Don’t look now, but Napoli are only three points back of Serie A leaders Juventus through 23 rounds and are likely to give the Bianconeri a run for their money in the scudetto race over the next few months.
And leading the charge, as he has been all season, will be Edinson Cavani, who leads the Italian top flight with 18 goals.
Shifty and tireless, the Uruguayan seems to have got even better since the departure of Ezequiel Lavezzi to Paris Saint-Germain and he’s on pace to better the 33 goals he scored in all competitions in each of the last two seasons.
Like Falcao, Cavani is coveted by some of the biggest clubs on the continent, and it will surely be difficult for Napoli to resist the type of bids that come in for him over the summer.
The centrepiece of the Qatari revolution at PSG, Zlatan Ibrahimovic has adapted quickly to both life and football in the French capital and his 20 Ligue 1 goals have him far and away atop the scoring chart. (Dario Cvitanich, who plays for Nice, is next on the list with 12.)
At 31 years of age, one would expect Ibrahimovich to be slowly deteriorating as a striker, but in reality the exact opposite has been the case.
The Sweden international is having one of the best seasons of his career and has made the highlight reel on more than one occasion already this season—most notably when he struck a stunning, long-distance volley against England in an international friendly.
Love him or hate him, few players have led the line as effectively this season as the controversial Uruguayan.
Luis Suarez has spent much of the season up top in a central role for Liverpool this season, and while his position has changed somewhat since the arrival of Daniel Sturridge, he remains one of the most lethal strikers in the Premier League.
His 17 goals in the division have him second in the scoring race to Robin van Persie, and with 22 in all competitions so far this season he has already eclipsed the 17 he hauled in last campaign.
This is only Suarez’ second full season at Liverpool, but he’s already well on his way to becoming a Kop legend.
Occasionally used as a winger for Croatia, Mario Mandzukic has been setting the Bundesliga alight in his first season at Bayern Munich.
An injury to Bayern’s incumbent striker, Mario Gomez, created a rare opening in one of the most talented, set-in-stone lineups in European football but it seems Mandzukic, 26, was every bit up to the challenge.
He has so far scored 14 Bundesliga goals this season and has 16 in all competitions—totals that already represent his most productive campaign since leaving Dinamo Zagreb three years ago.
Back from a two-goal showing at the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations for Congo DR, Dieumerci Mbokani can go back to making a name for himself as the most dangerous striker in Belgium.
His team, Anderlecht, are presently atop the Jupiler League with 56 points from 24 rounds and Mbokani’s 15 goals have been a major reason for their success. With the 27-year-old leading the line it looks increasingly likely that Anderlecht will win a second consecutive title in the spring.
Mbokani’s form for his country has also been impressive. He not only scored twice in South Africa in January but also tallied three times in four matches during Cup of Nations qualification.
On loan to Galatasaray from French club Toulouse, Umut Bulut is poised to lead the Istanbul giants—who currently sit atop the Turkish Super League—to a second title on the bounce.
Bulut, 29, is enjoying one the best campaigns of his career this term. His 12 Super League goals lead the division and he’ll be a central figure in Galatasaray’s assault on the Champions League later this month.
One thing that remains to be seen, however, is whether his minutes will diminish once (perhaps if) Didier Drogba slots into the number-one striker’s role at the club.